Major General John C Fremont was awakened by a dusty young courier. “General Jackson, Sir! He’s coming up the Pike at Luray!”
Fremont swung his legs into his boots at the side of his cot and barked orders to his waiting staff, their dress uniforms about to be badly soiled in the day’s events. Within minutes they stumbled over each other and raced out of the command tent putting Fremont’s small Federal command into motion.
Further south, Brigadier General Custer calmly surveyed an alarming situation. His three tiny cavalry regiments were galloping into delaying positions as General Stonewall Jackson’s Army of the Valley deployed astride the Valley Pike.
To Custer’s rear Brigadier General Dan Ricketts received an urgent message from his signal tower. The grizzled captain gruffly informed him that the drill was over. Jackson had arrived and Custer was engaged. Ricketts issued orders to his three batteries of U. S. Artillery to bring up the caissons and re-supply.
Jackson sent Colonel John Wilkes’ brigade to the left to develop Stempel’s Woods where the 7th Michigan waited. Brigadier General Dan Adams deployed to the right into the Douglas hayfield where the 5th and 6th Michigan cavalry awaited. Armistead’s brigade followed Wilkes and Palmer supported Adams.
Desperately the cavalrymen popped away with their Burnside carbines from behind Douglas’ stout snake fence and in Stempel’s tangled wood lot. Adams’ struggled to close the range sufficiently for the smoothbores arming the 17th Tennessee and the 8th Louisiana. Wilkes’ men struggled with the dense undergrowth, the creeping vines delaying them almost as much as the Wolverines.
Pouring down the Valley Pike in the opposite direction was Brigadier Thomas Milroy’ New York Brigade and Brigadier General Franz Sigel’s German Brigade at the head of Fremont’s small army. Unimpeded by the few ineffectual balls fired by the ancient 6-pounders of Bay’s Virginia Battery they surged forward into the north end of Stempel’s Wood.
Milroy’s 21st and 30th New York found less undergrowth in the north half of the woods and managed to surprise Armistead’s 13th Louisiana as it started to deploy from column. Soon the doughty New Yorkers were locked in a death match at close range in the thick forest with the Pelicans and Tarheels from the 4th and 7th North Carolina.
Meanwhile the 3rd Florida finally dislodged the 7th Michigan. Sigel, in the forefront of the battle, gave confidence to his green troops, steadying the 23rd New York who marched into the gap left by the exhausted cavalrymen. Deep in the woods the equally green 95th New York led by Colonel Marsena Patrick met and halted the flanking maneuver of Armistead’s 4th Kentucky.
Fremont, finding the bullets flying a bit thick found it necessary to personally guide the 80th New York into a reserve position at Miller’s Farm behind the heavily pressed 5th and 6th Michigan. By the time Adams finally dislodged the cavalrymen, Sigel had stabilized the Union right and the 24th New York, personally guided by Ricketts, had joined the 80th.
Ricketts’ gunners meanwhile, took a dreadful toll on Palmer’s brigade as it tried to march across the mile-long swale of young wheat and oats from Douglas’ fields to Ricketts position on Tower Ridge. By the time the Virginians of Palmer’s brigade reached the gunners they had suffered almost 300 casualties and, more importantly, Francis Stone’s brigade of Union infantry had arrived and been skillfully deployed by Stone to support the batteries.
As the sun passed toward the west Adams and Palmer made one last gasp of an attack on Miller’s Farm and Tower Ridge. After almost 6 hours under fire though Jackson’s veterans had nothing left and they recoiled back to the safety of Douglas’ fences.
In the woods both Sigel and Wilkes had been hit but remained in command. Jackson, surveying the strength of the Miller Farm position in the center and a second line waiting patiently behind Sigel and Milroy reluctantly issued the orders to break off the engagement in the woods as well.
In light of the stunning victory, Lincoln appointed Fremont to replace Major General George B. McClellan outside of Richmond. Fremont subsequently was unable to extricate Franklin’s V Corps when Joseph Johnston counterattacked and suffered a devastating defeat to end the Peninsular Campaign begun by McClellan.
Game was played with 15mm figures using Mr. Lincoln's War rules.
Diatribes are simply often humorous recountings of the games played by the Long Island Irregulars. We play with toy soldiers and are unabashedly happy to have never lost this part of our childhoods..